Evacuees seek safety in Prince Albert

Hilliard Sewap and his family look over a map of the Pelican Narrows area at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre Wednesday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Surrounded by his family, Hilliard Sewap points toward a colourful splotch on a map of northeast Saskatchewan.

“We drove by here last night,” he says. “This thing… burnt across the road.”

He’s worried that the splotch is getting bigger all the time. It represents the fire that’s blowing smoke over his home in Pelican Narrows. Tuesday night, wildfire management officials confirm, it shifted further to surround the only road out of town.

Sewap, who made it out just in time, is worried for those left behind. They can only leave under escort, according to officials, and only at certain times of day.

Sewap is one of dozens who gathered in the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre Wednesday afternoon. They’re refugees from Pelican Narrows, where chief and council are urging about 3,000 residents to evacuate the community.

The Prince Albert Grand Council and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation have an operations centre nearby. They’re providing hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh water and guidance to people flocking into Prince Albert. According to the provincial government, the city can expect about 600 fire refugees.

Sewap said he plans to stay in Prince Albert with his family. He doesn’t yet know where he’ll sleep, and he’s afraid about what might happen to his home. But it could be worse, he said.

“I might be homeless, but that’s alright,” he said. “As long as I’ve got my family with me, I’m OK.”

For more on this story, see the September 1 print or e-edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.